France: Gunman takes hostages at Toulouse bank

TOULOUSE, France (AP) – A French prosecutor says that a gunman holding three hostages in a bank in the southern city of Toulouse is doing so for religious reasons.

  • Elite police officers from the GIPN brigade arrive at a bank after a gunman took four people hostage in a bank in the southern French city of Toulouse and fired a shot, police said.By Bruno Martin, AP

    Elite police officers from the GIPN brigade arrive at a bank after a gunman took four people hostage in a bank in the southern French city of Toulouse and fired a shot, police said.

By Bruno Martin, AP

Elite police officers from the GIPN brigade arrive at a bank after a gunman took four people hostage in a bank in the southern French city of Toulouse and fired a shot, police said.

Sponsored Links

Police say negotiations are under way with the gunman. Prosecutor Michel Valet said the gunman claims he is “acting not for money but for his religious convictions.”

He did not say what faith the gunman adheres to.

French media reports say the gunman is claiming allegiance to al-Qaeda. Police officials who spoke to The Associated Press could not confirm this claim.

Police say a gunshot was fired early in the hostage-taking. An AP journalist at the scene heard another shot fired mid-afternoon, but the source of the shot was unclear.

Tensions have been high in Toulouse since March, when a gunman who police said claimed links to al-Qaeda killed three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi and three paratroopers in the area. Those were France’s worst terrorist attacks in years, and led to a crackdown on suspected Islamic radicals around France.

A man with a firearm entered a CIC bank branch in central Toulouse at about 11 a.m. and took the bank director and three other people hostage, two police officials said. The officials said a single shot was fired but no injuries have been reported so far. The bank is in the same neighborhood where Mohamed Merah, the suspected gunman in the March attacks, was shot and killed by police.

The officials could not confirm the report on France’s BFM television that the hostage-taker claimed ties to al-Qaeda. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

The neighborhood around the bank is cordoned off, and neighboring buildings were evacuated. Officers from a specialized police unit, the GIPN, arrived at the scene.

The gunman’s identity is unclear.

Among those evacuated were 4-year-olds and 5-year-olds from a private language school next to the bank. Valerie Ruckly-Gravier, who heads the Happy Momes school, or Happy Kids, said police advised that the security perimeters in place could last throughout the day.

“I had to call the parents … The police accompanied the group to the parents at the end of the street,” Ruckly-Gravier said by telephone.

The Paris headquarters of cooperative bank CIC is in contact with police in Toulouse, bank spokesman Bruno Brouchiquan said. He would not comment further. The bank describes itself as the second-largest retail bank in France and the leading bank insurance group, with thousands of branches in France and around the world.

The hostage-taker said he wanted the elite RAID national police force to come negotiate with him, police said. The RAID police force led negotiations and a 32-hour standoff with Merah, a Frenchman of Algerian origin, in his Toulouse apartment. Merah was shot in the head in a gunfight at the end of the standoff.

French authorities described Merah as an Islamic radical who had trained in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

French intelligence officials said at the time that they found no operational ties between Merah and al-Qaeda despite his claim.

His brother is in custody after being handed preliminary charges of complicity to plotting the killings at a Jewish school in Toulouse and of paratroopers in Toulouse and nearby Montauban.

Advertisements

Posted on June 20, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: